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Teachers Union Report Looks At The School Closings, One Year Later

By Chuck Sudo in News on May 21, 2014 4:00PM

Photo credit: Ken Smith

The Chicago Teachers Union released a report Wednesday analyzing last year’s closing of 50 schools by Chicago Public Schools, the largest wave of school closings in the nation’s history. CTU determined the promises CPS and the Chicago Board of Education were nowhere near what they actually brought to the table.

CTU interviewed teachers from seven of the receiving schools to gather information about the fulfillment of CPS’ promises. Additionally, researchers reviewed CPS material on the school closures, operating and capital budget documents, position files, vacancy reports, class size data, and other public data, to determine if the promises of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and School Board officials kept their promises to ensure receiving schools would be prepared to take in the students displaced by the school closures.

Here’s what CTU determined:

- Receiving schools are still disproportionately under-resourced compared to other elementary schools.

- Students were moved to schools with libraries, but funds weren’t available to hire librarians. Just 38 percent of receiving schools have librarians on staff, whereas across CPS, 55 percent of elementary schools have librarians.

- Computer labs were upgraded at receiving schools but only one-fifth of these schools have technology teachers.

- CPS touted iPads for all receiving-school students, but included few related professional learning opportunities for teachers.

- CPS spent millions on large-scale programmatic changes at 30 elementary schools, but the success and continued funding of STEM and IB programs remain to be seen.

The report read, “School closings have done nothing to improve the education of CPS students, nor have they saved money, but the same policies that led to massive closures continue to be implemented.” CTU president Karen Lewis said of the report, “Shuttering our schools was touted as a hard and difficult choice by the mayor and the Board, but this was the easy, draconian choice. Parents, teachers, and the public demanded resources and supports for these education communities. Sadly, by making promises that remain unfulfilled, these schools and the students they serve have been dealt yet another blow—from failed policy to broken promises.”

The teachers union estimated CPS spent nearly $285 million on costs related to the school closings and $83.5 million on transitions. Of the latter number, $9.3 million went directly to schools. Naturally, Byrd-Bennett, who declared the school closings a success in March, disagreed.

“These results reaffirm the District’s commitment to investing so heavily in the transition process, from making needed facility improvements to equipping Welcoming Schools with additional social and emotional supports to put students on the path to success,” she said in an emailed statement.

We've embedded the report below.

Twelve Months Later: The Impact Of School Closings In Chicago by Chicagoist